I admit it - I'm a chocoholic. Which is especially dangerous with Valentine's Day coming up. So when I heard media reports that chocolate could be good for the heart and brain - I rejoiced over having less guilt about gorging. But is it wishful thinking?
According to the February issue of Harvard Women's Health Watch - the answer is yes-and no. Dr. Eric Ding, a research scientist in the department of nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health says the reality is that ingredients in cocoa can be healthy, but the high-calorie chocolate bars that contain it aren't necessarily good for you.
Cocoa comes from roasted cacao seeds. It's high in plant compounds called cocoa flavonoids, which have been shown to have beneficial effects on heart disease risks and on blood flow to the brain. Here's the catch. Chocolate is the candy that's made by adding sugar, milk, and other ingredients to cocoa powder. Those ingredients also add fat and sugar, which counteract some of cocoa's health benefits.
Many of the studies on cocoa's benefits used an average flavonoid dose of 400 milligrams a day. "The problem is, that's about the equivalent of eight bars of dark chocolate or 30 bars of milk chocolate," he says. "When you eat these actual chocolate bars, all the calories and sugar come with them."
To get the health advantages of cocoa flavonoids without the fat and calories, consider buying a more concentrated cocoa product. Some cocoa supplements on the market contain up to 250 milligrams of cocoa flavonoids per serving.
Read the full-length article: "Chocolate: The pros and cons of this sweet treat"
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